Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bovina 100 Years Ago - the 1910 Census

In this census year, I have been doing a series of blog entries about Bovina censuses. I've been focusing on the censuses from 1860 and 1910 - 150 and 100 years ago. After a couple of entries about the 1860 census, I'm ready to review the 1910 census.

Bovina's population from 1860-1910 continued the drop that started after 1840. The 1910 population of Bovina was at 912, down over 300 from 1860's number of 1242 (it should be noted that the biggest drop took place between 1860 and 1870, when the Bovina's population fell by over 200). The population of Delaware County over that same period went up slightly, while New York State's population more than doubled. The US Population in 1860 was 31,443,321. By 1910, it was 92,228,496, almost triple the 1860 figure.

And while the numbers in Bovina were down, the information being collected was more detailed. Information collected in 1910 that was not being collected in 1860 included the number of children of each mother (and the number still living), number of years of current marriage, employment status at time of the census, did they own or rent, was the property mortgaged and were they a Civil War veteran.

During my initial skim of the census records, one thing that struck me is in this census, unlike the 1860 one, there are people that I recall from my childhood and young adulthood. Some of them included:
  • Grace Coulter, who later married Dave Roberts and lived on Maple Avenue, was less than a year old in 1910. She was a school teacher at the Bovina school and in other area schools. I remember Grace and Dave later in their lives - I would visit them almost every time I came to Bovina. Grace was 83 when she passed away.
  • Another Coulter I remember was Ruth Coulter, who later married Bill Parsons. Ruth was five years old and living with her parents and a couple of aunts in 1910. Ruth passed away in 2000.
  • Fletcher Davidson, one of my predecessors as Bovina Town Historian, was a teenager living with his parents and his sister Vera. (See my blog entry from August 23, 2009 for more about Fletcher.)
  • Fred and Nell Henderson were my neighbors when I was a child until they sold their home to Jim and Mary Haran in 1963. They were in their late 20s at the time of the 1910 census and had been married for 4 years. Fred and Nell would go on to celebrate 75 years of marriage before Fred's death in 1971. Nell died the following year.
  • James Hilson, who I remember as the old gentleman who worked in Hilson's Store across the street from where he lived, was a teenager living with his parents and siblings. Jim died in 1984.
  • Helena Strangeway was 22 at the time of this census, living with her parents and sister. She became the sister-in-law of James Hilson when she married his brother John in 1913. Helena died in 1976 at age 89.
  • Bob Boggs, who became my uncle when he married my mom's sister Geraldine Edwards, was 4 months old at the time of the census. He had an older brother Don. Bob passed away in 1991.
Both of my paternal grandparents also are in the census:
  • Anna Bell Barnhart, my dad's mom, was 16, living with her parents and three siblings at their farm on Pink Street. Grandma married James Calhoun (also in this census) in 1917 and was widowed a year later when James died in the First World War. She married grandpa in 1923 and died in 1980.
  • My grandfather, Ben LaFever, was 10 years old and living with his uncle and aunt, Dave and Aggie (Burns) Draffen up on Crescent Valley Road (his younger brother, Clarence, was living with their grandparents, Alex and Nancy Burns, right next door). Grandpa's mother had died in 1908 so he and his brother were shipped off to his mother's relatives back in Bovina. Grandpa died in 1982.
Other names I remember from my youth include Cecil and Isabell Russell, Bill Burns, Les Hoy, Leroy Worden (another neighbor from my childhood), Helen Gladstone (Mrs. Robert Hall), Henry Monroe, and Margaret Gordon, who was my social studies teacher in 7th grade.

There will be more coming about this census once I get the data into a database so I can do some analysis. How many of the 912 people in Bovina were going to school? How many were employed? And at what occupation? Were family sizes bigger or smaller compared to 1860?

So watch this space for further developments.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The 3Rs in Bovina - The Numbers

This is an entry that first saw the light of day as an article in the Bovina Community Newsletter, produced by the Bovina UP Church, in 2006. It ties to some of the census information I've been providing lately, so this seemed like a good time to share this.

In 1820, the year Bovina was founded, one third of the town's population of over 1200 was made up of children aged five to fifteen. A little over half of these children actually attended school in one of the town's five school districts that year.

By the 1850s, Bovina had thirteen districts. Some of these districts were joint districts, overlapping with Delhi, Andes or Middletown. The number of school-aged children was close to 600.

After the 1860s, as the town's population dropped, so did the number of school children. In 1878, 282 out of the 360 school-aged children in Bovina were being taught in the town. By 1909, ten of Bovina's eleven school districts were still operating their schoolhouses, but the number of children attending was down to 180 students.

In 1936, Bovina was down to nine districts, with two of these contracting their children out to other schools. Bovina had 127 children attending school through the 8th grade that year. Part of the reduction in school districts was caused by the creation of central school districts in Andes, Delhi, South Kortright and Margaretville. At the end of the 1930s, only seven districts were still in existence in Bovina.

The last school to operate in Bovina was Bovina District Number 4, which is now the public library. That school closed after the completion of school in June 1961. (I missed attending school here by one year - I started school in the fall of 1961 in Delhi.)

If you want to see some pictures of Bovina's one-room schools, go to my Flickr page. And if you have pictures you would like to share, please let me know. And stayed tuned for future blog entries about Bovina schools.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Remembering Jack Hilson

On Sunday Bovina lost another one of its long time familiar faces with the death of Jack Hilson (his obituary is in the Daily Star at Jack was a life long Bovina resident and a descendant of one of Bovina's oldest families. I remember Jack as the proprietor of Hilson's Store and Hilson's Feedstore, along with his brother Alex.

I also remember Jack as a great source on Bovina town history. Jack recalled that as a youngster, he had roller skated in the old Bovina Methodist church building, which was next to his boyhood home. This information helped me narrow down when the building was demolished - I finally found a newspaper article about the demolition in April 1926. Here's a picture of Jack and his older sister Louise in front of the church, probably not long before the church was torn down.

When I started working on this entry, I checked out a brief biography of Jack's great grandfather, the first John Hilson, sometimes known as 'Old Jock.' This biography comes from the 1895 Biographical Review of Delaware County. I include it here partly because of the number of similarities between Jack and his great grandfather. Jack's ancestor was a farmer and a merchant, like Jack, and was actively involved in the community, also like Jack. They both were members of the Bovina United Presbyterian Church - Jack had recently been honored for his 76 years of membership.

"JOHN HILSON, one of the most successful businessmen of Bovina Centre, was born in Scotland on May 25, 1827, the son of Alexander and Elizabeth (Nesbit) Hilson. ... John lived at home with his parents until his twenty-third year, being educated in Scotland, and learning the plasterer's trade of his father. In 1850, at the age of twenty-three, he came to America landing in New York after a pleasant voyage of only thirty days in a sailing ship. He came directly to Delaware County, and settled in Bovina, where he followed his trade for more than four years. In 1855, the year after his marriage, Mr. Hilson bought a farm of a hundred acres, where he started a dairy, having fifteen cows to commence with, and increasing the number to twenty-five during his seventeen years of farming. He has owned three different farms in Bovina, and now has a splendid one of two hundred and six acres, besides his residence in Bovina Centre.

"In 1845 he married Hannah S. Hamilton, a daughter of Robert Hamilton, one of Bovina's hardy pioneers. He started a large general store in 1867; and, before retiring from business, in 1889, to return to Scotland for a summer's visit, he had built up a very good trade. Since his return Mr. Hilson has speculated somewhat in butter, but has engaged in no active work, leaving his son Alexander to take charge of the store, in partnership with Mr. Blair. Alexander Hilson, born in 1855, is the only child of his parents. He was married in 1880 to Isabell Archibald; and they have two children, John [Jack's dad] and Jane Hilson, born in 1881 and 1885 [I have 1888 and 1891 respectively as the birthdays of John and Jane].

"John Hilson has a large circle of friends, he and his wife being members of the United Presbyterian church, wherein he has held the position of Trustee for a number of years. He has also been town clerk for ten years, and Superintendent of the Poor three years, and now holds the office of Notary Public. The Hilsons have always been identified with the interests of the town, and are esteemed by all who know them.

"Well has it been said by a poetic philosopher of our own day, Dr. J. G. Holland: -- 'God gives every bird its food, but he does not throw it into the nest. He does not unearth the good that the earth contains; but he puts it in our way, and gives us the means of getting it ourselves.'"

I think this quote equally refers to Jack. Jack was always working, whether as a farmer, merchant, a veteran of World War II or a conscientious citizen of his community. Jack did not let a stroke slow him down very much. He found the means to keep working. I used to see him tooling around town using a large three wheeled bicycle to run errands at the post office and store. And he continued to mow the front lawn of the church. He had the old Scottish toughness of his ancestors. They would have been proud of him.